Lionel Messi played a full 90 minutes for the first time this season, remarkably late in the calendar for the Argentine star. Bothered by a series of niggling injuries, Messi had missed the majority of time up until know and been limited to playing halves, rather than full matches.
Due to this, he has been coming in almost completely cold, with no pre-season or run of matches to pick up rhythm. He looked perhaps a little bit rusty in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League, but he showed he still has the magic in him that he’s always had.
Of course the image that most will remember from that game is him flying by a defender and setting up Luis Suárez’s game-winning goal. It was a smooth action that included a trademark dribble and pass.
But throughout the match he generated danger, dribbling by people, setting up chances - you name it.
He’s yet to score his first goal of the season, but at this rate, who cares? He was once again the world’s best playmaker, something Barcelona have at times badly missed.
For Ernesto Valverde, having Messi back in earnest will be an incredibly important salve to a rough start to the season. The team has not always looked very convincing, and they have stumbled rather than flown out of the gate.
There are still some very clear problems with this team, to be sure, and Messi can’t be expected to solve them on his own. But on evidence of yesterday, Messi is still king, and it does make a huge difference to have him out there.